Do the contentious political climate, financial woes, or everyday demands of work and life leave you feeling a bit frazzled? Check out our list of some tried-and-true, and some truly innovative, ways to chill out.
An Eastern approach
Though many Eastern-medicine practices have been around for centuries, many have recently gained more notoriety in the Western world. In addition to yoga (see story) here are two to try:
Breathe in, breathe out
“From birth to 10 years old, we naturally breathe down into our bellies, bringing lots of rich oxygen to our bodies,” explained meditation coach Brittany Hudson. “But as we age, we lose this natural technique and breathe only into our chests, often losing the ability to calm ourselves in times of stress with deep, mindful breathing.”
Hudson hosts private guided meditation lessons in Coronado and has worked with Navy SEAL wives to coach them through stressful times. She teaches her students to become hyper-aware of their breathing, and to focus on the present moment. “When we pay attention only to inhaling and exhaling and relax our bodies from head to toe, we are keeping our awareness in the present. Anxiety comes from worry about the future, depression comes from events of the past, but the present is where the peace is.” (To schedule a meditation session with Hudson, call (619) 398-7340 or visit meditatingmama.me)
Local therapist Emily Kierce explained that even five to 10 minutes of meditation a day helps manage emotions, increase concentration and productivity, and regulate levels of the stress hormone cortisol. “It’s a difficult practice in our society,” said Kierce. “Start small — a few minutes a day — and build from there. Meditation is powerful.”
New this year, Coronado SAFE offers free meditation classes on Wednesdays from 9 to 9:30 a.m. at 1009 C Ave., guided by local retired marriage and family therapist, Pat Zanoni.
Fill your cup
Cupping is an ancient practice mentioned in medical text books as far back as 1550, and even practiced by Hippocrates in 400 BC. But it was in 2016, when celebrated Olympians, such as Michael Phelps, brought home gold medals with very noticeable circular marks on their backs.
As opposed to positive pressure used in traditional massage techniques, cupping therapy creates negative pressure with the use of a small glass dome that essentially sucks the skin upward. “Everybody has some form of stress they’re dealing with,” said Chris Garden, DC, of Coronado Island Chiropractic. “Poor posture, activity (or lack of it), built-up toxins from the environment and poor nutrition choices take a toll on our nervous systems and create physical and mental stress. Cupping releases rigid soft tissue, drains excess fluids and increases circulation, allowing your body to release tension and flush out toxins, alleviating stress in the body.”
According to Garden, patients can reap the benefits in as few as one or a few treatments. The treatment creates circular discolorations that look like bruises, especially in areas where the body was harboring a lot of tightness. The marks last anywhere from a few hours to two weeks depending on the amount of tension, Garden explained.
Cupping therapy is offered at Coronado Island Chiropractic, (619) 865-1053; Discover Well-ness, (619) 437-4900; and Coronado Island Acupuncture, (619) 435-2522.
Burn off some steam — and calories
It’s no mystery that the endorphin boost from exercise lessens stress, reduces anxiety and depression and elevates mood, but combine those benefits with the meditative qualities of yoga and you’ve got a winning combo for melting away fat, and the worries that ail you. Head to the Coronado Academy of Dance (952 Orange Ave. in the alley) and try a PiYo class, which combines the muscle and core work of Pilates and the balance, flexibility and stress relief of yoga. “The class is a little different each time, but it’s always a great workout. You get the mindfulness of yoga and the muscle-sculpting burn of Pilates,” explained instructor Lanette Perryman. Classes are $10 (first class is free) and held at 9 a.m. Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Footloose and fancy-free
Studies have shown that dancing increases brain function, boosts overall life satisfaction and can even ward off dementia in the elderly. But most of all, it releases endorphins — our feel-good, stress-regulating hormones — so it’s a great way to blow off some steam. Here’s one way to cut a rug in Coronado:
Zoom over to Zumba!
Zumba is a high-energy, choreographed dance-fitness program centered on international rhythms. “We do a lot of different styles of dance like salsa, cumbia, merengue and even country and hip hop, so there’s something for everyone,” said local instructor Shea Hawthorne. Classes are $10 (your first class is free) and cater to all fitness levels. Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Coronado Training Center, 126 B Ave.
Pursue something new
Sing your heart out
Did you know that making music immediately relieves stress by switching off the genes that produce the chemicals associated with the body’s stress response? This explains why one of Emily Bosworth’s favorite ways to release stress is to sing. “There’s something so satisfying about singing a piece; it helps you relax and breathe, almost yoga-like. That’s because you’re concentrating on maximizing the oxygen that’s coming in and out of your mouth,” she explained. “I started taking lessons with Diane about four years ago. I just enjoy singing around the house throughout the day.” Voice lessons with Diane Alexander begin at $35 for a 30-minute session: (619) 994-5206 or dianealexandersoprano.com
Play with clay
Creating art can take your mind off what’s stressing you, drawing you into a nearly meditative state, an aspect experts refer to as “flow.” And, the satisfaction of making something new boosts endorphins and alleviates anxiety. Rebecca Bryans took her first ceramics class through Coronado Adult Education this spring. She explained, “When you are throwing clay, it’s very sensory. You just focus your attention on the motion of the wheel. And then your piece begins to take shape and you are amazed to think it all started as a lump of clay. It’s quite rewarding.” Coronado Adult Education classes offer a myriad of ways to learn something new. They’re offered year-round, including summer. Ceramics class sessions of six to seven weeks are approximately $230 plus a $25 fee for clay; adulted.coronado.usd.net.
Find a furry friend
Playing with and/or petting an animal increases levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decreases cortisol. Studies have also shown people with high blood pressure who owned a pet were better able to keep blood pressure lower during times of mental stress. The Coronado Animal Care Facility, which is operated by PAWS of Coronado, processes more than 500 animals year, many of which need to be adopted into a loving home.
“There are so many medical benefits to playing with and caring for animals,” said Sharon Sherman, the organization’s administrative director. “But it doesn’t take a doctor to measure it — you can just see people’s whole demeanor change when they play with a dog. Their whole face lights up! And when we have a stressful day here at the shelter, we just take out some animals and play — it’s an immediate mood booster, for both the person and the animal. Taking on a dog or cat certainly comes with a new set of responsibilities, but its stress-relieving benefits are significant, so both the pet and the owner win.”
Don’t have the space for a four-legged companion? PAWS is always in need of volunteers. Donate your time as a dog walker and you’ll get the stress-busting, endorphin-boosting benefits of animal companionship, exercise, and giving back to your community. 1395 First St., (619) 435-8247 or pawsofcoronado.org.
Get back to your roots
Gardeners have long touted the therapeutic effects of tending to the soil. Breathing in the fresh air, soaking up the sun (with sunscreen on, of course!), exerting yourself physically and experiencing the satisfaction of creating something in your garden all boost endorphins and lower stress levels. Not to mention, you’ll have the added health benefits of cultivating your own healthy vegetables and fruits!
Need some green thumb guidance? Call the San Diego Master Gardeners hotline. More than 200 extensively trained Master Gardeners — eight of whom reside in Coronado — man the line year-round to help you get growing! (858) 822-6910, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.